NBA playoffs: Ja Morant’s last-second layup lifts Grizzlies; Heat, Suns win
Ja Morant scored on a layup with a second left, and the Memphis Grizzlies rallied from 11 points down in the fourth quarter to edge the Minnesota Timberwolves 111-109 on Tuesday night and grab a 3-2 lead in their first-round Western Conference series.
Morant, named the NBA’s most improved player on Monday, struggled mightily much of the game. But he turned it on in the fourth quarter, scoring 18 points — including 9 of 10 at the free-throw line.
Morant came from the low post as the Grizzlies inbounded the ball with 3.7 seconds left and lost Anthony Edwards at the top of the key. That left him an open lane into the paint that he’s so rarely had in this series, beating Jarred Vanderbilt with his left hand on an underhanded layup.
Morant finished with 30 and had 13 rebounds and nine assists. Desmond Bane added 25 points, and Brandon Clarke had 21 off the bench for Memphis, and Jaren Jackson Jr. added 12 before fouling out.
Karl-Anthony Towns led the Timberwolves with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Anthony Edwards had 22, and D’Angelo Russell added 12 and Taurean Prince 10.
Game 6 is Friday night in Minnesota.
The Timberwolves led 99-88 with 6:58 left after three free throws by Towns and Jackson fouling out for a second straight game. The Grizzlies responded with a 10-0 run to set up a thrilling finish to what had been an ugly game with plenty of poor shooting.
Edwards tied it up at 109 for Minnesota with a 3 with 3.7 seconds left. That set up Morant for the final drive to the basket for the game-winner.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins was fined $15,000 Monday for criticizing the officiating after Game 4, a 119-118 win by Minnesota. On Tuesday, his Grizzlies got to the free-throw line more than Minnesota — they just didn’t shoot well once there, making 26 of 39 compared to Minnesota’s 21 of 24.
The Grizzlies opened the game on a 13-2 run and looked liked the team that earned the highest seed in franchise history.
Then Jackson got his second foul on Patrick Beverley’s 3 and went to the bench. The Timberwolves, the NBA’s best 3-point shooting team in the regular season, started knocking down shots, going 7 of 11 outside the arc and leading 31-28 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter was a different story, with Minnesota hitting only 1 of 9 outside the arc and leading 55-53 at halftime.
Minnesota outscored Memphis 30-21 in the third, but Morant capped the quarter with a windmill dunk that helped give the Grizzlies some much-needed energy.
Heat 97, Hawks 94
MIAMI (AP) — Victor Oladipo scored 23 points, Bam Adebayo added 20 points and 11 rebounds, and the Heat moved into the Eastern Conference semifinals by beating the Hawks.
Tyler Herro scored 16, Max Strus scored 15 and Caleb Martin added 10 for the top-seeded Heat, who ousted the eighth-seeded Hawks in five games. And Miami got the series-clincher without Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry, both of whom sat out Tuesday with injuries.
Trae Young’s rough series for Atlanta remained that way: He finished 2 for 12 from the floor, scoring just 11 points. For the series, the Hawks’ guard shot 32% against Miami’s swarming defense.
De’Andre Hunter scored 35 for Atlanta, which got 12 apiece from Kevin Huerter and Danilo Gallinari.
Hunter fouled out with 41.6 seconds left, Miami clinging to a three-point lead at the time. The Hawks got a stop, taking over with 29.2 seconds remaining, and retained possession after a missed shot from Gallinari went out of bounds off Miami.
The Hawks never got another shot off, time expired and Miami moved on.
Suns 112, Pelicans 97
PHOENIX (AP) — Mikal Bridges scored 31 points in a stellar all-around game, Chris Paul added 22 points and 11 assists and the top-seeded Phoenix Suns beat the New Orleans Pelicans 112-97 on Tuesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference first-round series.
The Suns never trailed but also never totally pulled away until the final few minutes against the feisty Pelicans. Once again, Phoenix found a way to close, improving to 50-0 this season when leading after three quarters, including 3-0 in this series.
Bridges closed the Suns’ scoring with two emphatic dunks in the final minute, capping arguably the best game of his pro career.
Brandon Ingram scored 22 points to lead the Pelicans. CJ McCollum added 21.
The Suns took an 89-78 lead into the final quarter after Cameron Payne’s late 3-pointer. The Pelicans — just 36-46 during the regular season — pulled within seven points with less than two minutes left, but Cameron Johnson threw down a one-handed jam on the ensuing fast break to keep the Suns in control.
Phoenix will try to clinch the series in Game 6 on Thursday in New Orleans. If the first five games are any indication, it will not be easy.
Paul bounced back from a subpar Game 4 and Bridges showed why he was one of three finalists for the league’s defensive player of the year, blocking four shots.
It was also an ironman performance for Bridges, who played 47 of a possible 48 minutes yet never looked tired. He made 12 of 17 shots from the field, grabbed five rebounds and had two steals.
Phoenix played its third straight game without All-Star guard Devin Booker, who was still out with a strained right hamstring that happened in Game 2.
The Suns jumped out to a 2-20 lead by the end of the first quarter. They looked much more like the team that led the NBA with 64 wins during the regular season, playing tight defense and making the extra pass on offense to get open shots.
Phoenix led by as many as 17 during the second quarter before settling for a 59-46 advantage. Paul had 16 points before the break while Ayton added 13. Ingram had 13 for the Pelicans.
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